- BD-50 Disc
- Region A
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- French DTS 5.1
- English SDH, French, Spanish
- 7 Deleted Scenes
- Creating The Terminator: Visual Effects & Music
- Terminator: A Retrospective
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The Terminator (Remastered) (Blu-ray)
MGM/UA / 1984 / 108 Minutes / Rated R
Street Date: February 19, 2013
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- List Price: $19.99
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Reviewed by Steven Cohen
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
What started as a fever dream induced hallucination of a towering metallic skeleton rising out of a billowing plume of flames, has now gone on to spawn a franchise of big budget movies, TV shows, theme park attractions, video games, comic books, toys, and merchandise, that remain popular and ever-expanding even today. At the heart of it all, though, is still that original, action-packed, dark explosion of science fiction and suspense from 1984. James Cameron's 'The Terminator' is a milestone of its genre, effectively taking inspiration from all that came before, to end up with something refreshingly unique. After nearly thirty years, it continues to be one of the most influential sci-fi thrillers ever made. "And it absolutely will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead."
For the very few who may not be familiar with the story, the tale follows an average waitress named Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), who suddenly becomes the target of an unstoppable, cybernetic killing machine from the future (Arnold Schwarzenegger). A human soldier, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), is also sent to the past, and becomes Connor's only source of protection from the seemingly indestructible Terminator. Together, they flee from the metallic assassin in an exciting, edge-of-your-seat, effects-laden spectacle that eventually sees the very fate of humanity hanging in the balance.
Serving as the audience's surrogate, Linda Hamilton is great as Sarah Connor, imbuing the role with a relatable every-woman appeal. Her character's gradual strengthening over the course of the story is handled well, and effectively hints at the more dramatic changes she will endure in the sequel. Biehn is also solid as the brooding, war-weary hero from a dystopian future, and together the pair has decent, but not quite sparkling chemistry. Schwarzenegger's performance has of course become iconic, and no matter how many times it's been parodied or sanitized in later installments, his cold, intimidating presence still brings an arresting level of true menace to the screen. So much so, that it momentarily purges this memory from my mind.
On the narrative front, Cameron's script is strong on ideas, but a bit broad on characterizations -- something that remains a common trait in much of the director's work. On the plus side, the overarching premise is pure sci-fi gold, brilliantly balancing a classic high concept idea with a surprisingly intimate and self-contained scope. Deeper themes dealing with the concepts of "man versus machine" and the violent pitfalls of technology are all potent and remain just as relevant today as when the movie was first released. While the screenplay does wear some clear influences on its sleeve, the film never becomes truly derivative (though, Harlan Ellison would certainly disagree), and quite to the contrary, it has gone on to inform an entire subgenre of science fiction.
As strong as this cybernetic backbone is, some of the finer points of the storytelling process aren't as fully realized, revealing a few clunky quirks in the director's creation. Dialogue (never Cameron's strong point) can occasionally come across as a little cheesy, stilted, or overly dramatic. Likewise, the performances lose their way a bit, sometimes feeling artificial and forced. With that said, the core of the plotting and character development all still manage to work, creating a solid base for the director to expand upon, giving him free reign to explore the film's real focus -- big science fiction concepts, exciting action, and kick ass effects.
Through pioneering SFX work and an unrelenting cinematic pace, Cameron brings an energetic and raw visual style to the proceedings. Though fairly low budget, the self-proclaimed "king of the world" rarely lets these monetary limitations show, filling the runtime with speeding chases, massive explosions, and suspenseful shootouts. Stan Winston's visual effects creations have become the stuff of legends, and while a few shots might be slightly dated, the film's make-up still holds up remarkably well. One really gets the sense that this is a work from a young filmmaker who has something to prove, and Cameron clearly doesn't hold back.
Endlessly re-watchable and effortlessly entertaining, 'The Terminator' is a true staple of the science fiction genre, and a defining example of blockbuster filmmaking. While there are certain weaknesses in the script -- the action, effects, and genuine creativity more than make up for any minor shortcomings. Through the story of an emotionless, virtually indestructible monster that will literally stop at nothing to destroy its targets, Cameron is able to tap into some of mankind's most basic fears, creating a visceral and truly frightening "tech noir" that hasn't lost any of its terrifying luster. Even in Hollywood's current climate of massive budget, computer-generated summer tent-poles, 'The Terminator' continues to remind audiences and would-be filmmakers, that all one really needs to create explosive entertainment, is talent, ingenuity, and courage. Well, all that and a really, really big Austrian.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Terminator' is once again brought to Blu-ray by MGM, but this time in a special remastered edition that features a brand new video transfer. Unfortunately, the digibook packaging from the last release has been excised in a favor of a standard keepcase. After some warnings and logos, the BD-50 disc transitions directly into the film, forgoing a traditional menu. The packaging indicates that the release is region A coded.
It's been a long time coming, but the Blu-ray gods have finally answered our prayers. After several worthless double dips, the film has at last been given a remastered video presentation to replace the old, problematic, and oftentimes ugly MPEG-2 transfer found on all previous editions. Now provided with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, with the exception of one possible caveat, this new transfer offers a rather remarkable improvement all across the board.
The noticeable damage and wear from the previous versions has all been cleaned away, and the print is now nearly pristine. Thankfully, grain is also better resolved, with a more natural and consistent appearance that's free from the periodically smeary and compressed quality found in the last encode (though it can still look just a tad static in some shots). Clarity is substantially improved as well, and while the movie still shows its gritty, low budget roots, there is now a strong sense of fine detail and dimension that was previously absent. Contrast remains steady, with solid black levels and good shadow delineation.
This brings us to the new transfer's most controversial and only potentially off-putting aspect -- its altered color timing. Yes, it's true, many scenes do offer a comparatively teal hue. With that said, I actually think the adjusted style works pretty well, and while the frequently blue/greenish tinting isn't always appealing, I never found it to be particularly distracting (and I'm not usually a fan of this look). Likewise, the entire runtime isn't completely slathered in teal, and there is some nice pop in bright outdoor scenes. In fact, there are a few shots that actually look a bit more natural than the previous transfer, which occasionally had more of a washed out, faintly magenta/purple push to it. Now of course the question becomes which color timing is more faithful to the original theatrical presentation -- and unfortunately, I'm simply in no position to answer that. For what it's worth, this seems to be how James Cameron wants the film to look now, and while some fans are certainly free to disagree, I think the resulting image is quite strong.
With a dramatic increase in clarity and depth, this new remastered edition of 'The Terminator' offers a cleaner, sharper, and more filmic image. The teal coloring might put off some viewers, but I can't say that it bothered me much. For all intents and purposes, this is a fantastic visual upgrade.
Unlike the video, the film's audio mix has not been altered, and this might be a point of contention for many fans. Though now presented in an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track (as opposed to LPCM), this is the same surround sound mix from the previous releases, and once again the original mono track is nowhere to be found. An additional Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and a French DTS 5.1 track are also included, along with English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles. While I still think this mix is decent, my opinion of it has diminished since my last review.
Dialogue is relatively clean, though there are some slight distortions and crackles in the high frequencies. Surround usage is ample and aggressive, sending laser blasts, explosions, gun shots, and squealing tires all around the room. Unfortunately, the soundstage can actually be a little too vigorous, and some of the directionality and imaging feels unnatural and forced. Likewise, there are balance issues, causing the effects work to overpower the rest of the track. Dynamic range and bass activity are both robust, giving a welcome sense of scale and kick to the action scenes, but neither are on par with contemporary efforts.
Though I still find the track to be mostly effective, its lack of refinement was much more apparent to me this time around (chalk it up to the 200 plus discs I've covered since my original review). Likewise, many fans have expressed dismay over its use of re-recorded effects (particularly gunshots) that don't fit as well with the on-screen action. By simply including the original mono mix, this could have been a perfect opportunity for the studio to not only rectify the film's video issues, but its audio problems as well. Alas, that simply isn't the case, making this a disappointing missed opportunity.
Supplements are duplicated from the previous Blu-ray releases. There is some fairly interesting stuff here, but it's unlikely that fans haven't already seen or heard it all countless times before. All of the special features are provided in standard definition with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio and optional English subtitles (unless noted otherwise).
- Creating The Terminator: Visual Effects and Music (SD, 13 min) - This is a brief but interesting look at the making of the film's special effects, focusing on scenes set in the future, and the tanker truck explosion near the climax of the movie. Interviews with the VFX crew and behind-the-scenes footage are also provided, detailing how miniatures and forced perspective were used in the process. The music is touched upon as well, including an interview with the composer.
- Terminator: A Retrospective (SD, 21 min) - Here we get a look back at the film's production that mostly consists of a conversation between director James Cameron and star Arnold Schwarzenegger. Topics touched upon include the inspiration for the story, the casting process, crafting the character of The Terminator once Arnold was brought on board, Stan Winston's fantastic makeup and effects, and the success which led to the second film. Though far from groundbreaking, fans who somehow haven't already seen this feature on previous Blu-ray or DVD releases will definitely want to take a look.
- Terminated Scenes (SD) - Seven deleted scenes are included here with Dolby Digital 1.0 audio, and are viewable individually. Though most are quick and disposable, there are a few extra bits of development between characters and several hints and setups to plotlines that would be later developed in the sequels.
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'The Terminator' is a science fiction classic that still holds up remarkably well, serving as a testament to raw, low budget, innovative filmmaking. More than just another repackaging, this release finally offers fans a remastered video transfer. With the exception of an occasional teal push that might put off some viewers, the new picture is a sizeable improvement. Unfortunately, though decent, the included 5.1 track retains all of the issues fans have complained about for years, and the mono mix remains missing. There are no new supplements, but the regurgitated special features are worthwhile (if you haven't already seen them.) While this is an underwhelming release in many respects, the new video transfer really is a large improvement. This isn't the perfect disc many were hoping for, but as far as I'm concerned, it's still a worthy upgrade.
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